Travesía Cuatro is pleased to announce its participation in Art Basel OVR: Miami Beach 2020, with a selection of works by gallery artists Alvaro Urbano, Donna Huanca, Jose Dávila, Gonzalo Lebrija, Milena Muzquiz & Jorge Méndez Blake.
The works chosen are proposals that invite us to think about society and the individual, identity, the current conversation around the nature-culture divide and art in relation to architecture.
Alvaro Urbano’s work focuses on the material culture of the built environment we inhabit in order to highlight the stories it contains. Driven by his interest in fiction and narrative, Urbano’s work is always alive, like props for a film or an everyday scene. Even in the smallest details he creates, such as metal sculptures of cigarette butts and seemingly dry flowers, Urbano always attempts to describe a scene that has already happened. Although the spectators always seem to arrive too late and miss the action, they can still speculate and reconstruct the event.
Animism, which proposes that material objects have a conscious life and soul, is a recurring element in Alvaro Urbano’s practice. Playing with fiction and making use of humor, his sculptures and installations tend to imitate the theatricality of urban life, which often seems absurd and monotonous.
The work La Vida Breve (Ficus carica) is part of Alvaro Urbano’s exhibition ‘El Despertar’ [The Awakening], curated by José Esparza Chong Cuy, which is currently on view at La Casa Encendida in Madrid.
“Like a strange dream that seems to go on forever, The Awakening reanimates a building whose life appears to have expired long ago. Through an immersive installation comprised of fragments that make up the body of a building, a forgotten edifice is reactivated to provoke speculative thought about its past and future. In this exhibition in one scene, artist Alvaro Urbano (Madrid, 1983) uses as a case study the celebrated Hexagon Pavilion, designed by architects José Antonio Corrales and Ramón Vázquez Molezún. The building, now languishing in a ruinous state in Madrid’s Casa de Campo park, was first presented as the Spanish Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and is considered an important example of modern Spanish architecture. After years of abandonment, it is hard to believe what it once was and what it contained. Here—where the architecture and vegetation seem to be frozen in time, where the building itself holds a pictorial and sonic landscape that speaks of the past experiences lived within its walls, and where a pair of raccoons intermittently dwells—an endless twilight bathes the space in color and brings it to life. Like an unscripted film that captures daily existence, The Awakening constructs a parallel life for an exhausted building in order to revive seemingly dormant histories.” […]
Text by José Esparza Chong Cuy
Petrit Halilaj & Alvaro Urbano each have independent art practices which are linked together by their relationship and domestic life, often spilling over into collaborative works such as these giant flowers which are simultaneously being exhibited at Halilaj’s exhibition at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, at the Studio Now exhibition in Berlin by Boros Collection and Berghain, and at the 2020 Quadriennale di Roma.
A classic symbol of love celebration and care, the flowers are invested of an additional meaning: embodying locations and years, they become a map of a love story. A portrait of the lovers in time and space. Their choices of flowers forms part of the personal history, the titles of the works represent the exact dates when the flowers have been exchanged. For instance the Lily, titled 16th of March 2019 (Lily), was part of their marriage proposal bouquet. However, these references are far from remaining simple anecdotes. In being made public, their intimacy acquires an evident social and political dimension. With their large-scale they reclaim a space for the display of what we are sometimes forced to conceal.
Alvaro Urbano (b. 1983, Madrid) lives and works in Berlin. In 2014, he received the Villa Romana Fellowship. Between 2016/2017 he attended The Artists and Architects-in-Residence at MAK, Los Angeles. He is currently a professor at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, France.
His works have been recently exhibited at the 17th Quadriennale di Roma, Italy (with Petrit Halilaj); Biennale Gherdëina, Ortisei, Italy (with Petrit Halilaj); Art Basel Statements, Switzerland, with ChertLüdde; Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Germany; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany; Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, Belgium; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany; CAB, Brussels, Belgium; Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Moscow, Russia; PAC, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy; S.A.L.T.S., Basel, Switzerland; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany, among others.
His solo show El Despertar [The Awakening] will be on view until January 10, 2021 at La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain. He is working on a solo exhibition planned for 2021 at Storefront for Art and Architecture, NY, curated by José Esparza Chong Cuy.
The paintings of Bolivian-American Donna Huanca serve both as abstraction and documentation of her ‘skin paintings’, the life performers whose naked bodies she uses as her original canvas.
Her practice stands out for its understanding of the body, and of the skin in particular, as a territory where surface and matter converse with architecture, space, and the world. The artist questions systems of knowledge such as biology, ecology, geology, or anthropology through paintings, sculptures, and performances. In this way she introduces an alternative gaze on the body which operates as an instrument of transformation, setting up a model for the deconstruction of cultural, gender, and national identities dominating our time and, again, the dissolution of the false dichotomy of nature and culture.
Every painting carries stored information from the previous live performances and encounters and these ephemeral experiences guide future works.
I go to nature as much as possible to observe the peace and chaos and its constant change. I strive to offer the audience a glitch in the world around them, a portal that can function as a reflection pool for anyone open to the experience.
– Donna Huanca
Donna Huanca (b. 1980, Chicago) lives and works in Berlin. She studied painting at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and at the University of Houston in Texas.
Recent exhibitions include ‘Obsidian Ladder’, curated by Olivia Marciano, Marciano Art Foundation (Los Angeles, US); ‘Lengua Llorona’, Copenhagen Contemporary (Copenhagen, DK); ‘Piedra Quemada’, Belvedere Museum (Vienna, AT); ‘Cell Echo’, Yuz Museum (Shanghai, CN); ‘Lengua de Bartolina Sisa’, Travesía Cuatro (Madrid, ES); ‘Jaguar and electric Eels’, Julia Stoschek Collection (Berlin, DE); ‘Scar Cymbals’, Zabludowicz Collection (London, UK); ‘Surrogate Painteen’, Peres Project (Berlin, DE); ‘Ice Chrysocolla’, Cabaret der Künstler – Zunfthaus Voltaire, Manifesta 11 (Zurich, CH); ‘Poly Styrene’s Braces’, curated by Anne Barlow, Art in General (New York, US); ‘in collaboration with kim?’, Contemporary Art Centre (Riga, LV) and ‘Sade Room (formerly reclusive)’, MOMA PS1 (New York, US).
Jose Dávila’s Untitled (Le Charnier) is based on the homonymous painting by Pablo Picasso (c.1944–1948) purportedly dealing with the Nazi genocide of the Holocaust. It is considered to be Picasso’s second major anti-war painting, the first being the monumental Guernica (1937), but it is not thought to be as significant as that work because the artist left it unfinished.
Dávila’s cutouts attest an interest in the indeterminacy of viewing as consuming, when the proliferation of images is constantly testing our sense of place or time as viewers in order to construct history. By piercing or ‘cutting out’ the central subject in works of art, he compels the viewer to imagine, as an act of creativity, that which appeals to the common universal memory.
The precariousness in the balance intensifies a sensation of danger in the spectator, which in turn alerts the senses, the reflection of the position in one’s space, and the concentration needed to contemplate. In a way, it generates a demand for attention that in these times, when attention has such a short span, helps to create a space of intimacy between the work of art and the viewer.
At the same time, I am interested in emphasizing a precarious balance and reflecting on the force of gravity, which we take for granted, so as not to forget that the very act of walking upright is a challenge to gravity and a symbol of humanity, a statement of intent. Gravity has shaped and influenced the history of sculpture like no other “material” or force.
– Jose Dávila
I am very interested in the uniqueness of natural materials, their unique and unrepeatable state. The fact that no two stones are the same on the entire planet, just as no two seashells are the same, for example. I am very interested in stones as a foundational element of human culture, having been used during all of history, for example from the Carnac alignments, as objects of veneration, to build mystical-religious sites, tombs or, later, great palaces.
However, human beings have always had the desire to control the stone, carving it to give it a shape according to their own will. And so concrete enters history. I call it “the stone that man created.” And I am very much interested in the opposite, the contrast in comparison with materials that are industrialized and that you can find being identical in China, France, Brazil or Mexico as a convention of human communication, so those materials can be used to build in equal measures and sizes. Which is the total opposite of building with stones and natural elements.
It seems to me that the smooth texture of concrete is in some way the neutralization of singularity, while the stone is the vestige and strength of the origin.
– Jose Dávila
The work of Jose Dávila (b.1974, Guadalajara, Mexico) has been exhibited at Museo del Novecento, Firenze, IT; Gropius Bau, Berlin, DE; Getty Foundation PST LA/LA Triennial, Los Angeles, USA; Blueproject Foundation, Barcelona, SP; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, DE; Marfa Contemporary, Marfa, USA; Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, USA; Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, NL; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, NL; Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo MUAC, Mexico City, MX; Caixa Forum, Madrid, SP; MoMA PS1, New York, USA; Kunstwerke, Berlin, DE; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, USA; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina So a, Madrid, SP; MAK, Vienna, AT; Fundación/Colección JUMEX, Mexico City, MX; Bass Museum of Art, Miami, USA; Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, BR; among others.
Recent solo exhibitions include: To Each Era Its Art, To Art Its Freedom, curated by Now + There and Pedro Alonzo at Central Wharf Park, Boston, and Fuerza Bruta, curated by Viviana Kuri at Museo de Arte e Historia de Guanajuato, MX (2020). He is currently working on his upcoming solo show at Centro Internazionale di Scultura in Peccia, CH.
Lebrija’s History of Suspended Time marked the physical and permanent realization of an earlier performance (2008) during which the artist hoisted a restored muscle car above a lake with a crane and then dropped the car into the water while filming it with a high-speed camera. Lebrija’s camera caught the moment just before the car broke the lake’s surface. While in reality the car was in motion, in the image it appears to be suspended in time, an illusion made monumental in Gonzalo’s subsequent installation at MCA Denver n 2010. A massive car delicately poised on the surface of the water, History of Suspended Time appears to defy gravity and stop time. In addition to creating an uncanny–even sublime–effect, the installation encourages visitors to think about the automobile as a symbol of modern life and human aspiration. Furthermore, the work represents a more complex discussion of energy beyond the popular topic of conservation. In Lebrija’s original performance, the artist spent months fixing up a car only to drop it into a lake. With this glorious excess, Lebrija’s monumental sculpture explores the complicated relationship between excessive energy and artistic production.
Gonzalo Lebrija is currently showing the monumental public sculpture Breve historia del tiempo at Museo Jumex, Mexico City, as part of the exhibition Al filo de la navaja curated by Patricia Marshall. With it the artist aims to defy gravity and perpetuate the feeling of the suspension of time. The work originates from his now iconic photograph and 16 mm film from 2008, Entre la vida y la muerte [Between Life and Death]. The works document the action of throwing an American car from the 1970s into a lake in Jalisco, which he filmed with a high-speed movie camera in order to capture the instant when the car brushes the surface of the water before crashing.
Gonzalo Lebrija (1972. Mexico City) has exhibited extensively at an international level. Recent solo shows include: Piales (la suerte de detener el tiempo), Travesía Cuatro (Madrid, Spain, 2019); Cathedral, curated by Humberto Moro, SCAD Museum (Savannah, US, 2019); Vía Láctea, Museo Rufino Tamayo (Mexico City, 2018) and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Havana, Cuba, 2016); Mariachi Wagner, Moody Performance Hall (Dallas, US, 2018); Unfolded Paintings, Travesía Cuatro (Guadalajara, 2017); Unfolded, Museo de Arte de Zapopan (Guadalajara, MX, 2015); Who knows where the time goes, Faggionato Fine Arts (London, UK, 2014); Possibility of Disaster, Centro de las Artes de Monterrey (Monterrey, MX, 2014); R75/ Toaster, Multimedia Art Museum (Moscow, RS, 2013); Deriva Especular, Museo de Arte Moderno (Mexico City, MX, 2011).
Milena Muzquiz’s totem-like sculptures work as symbolic magnets, attracting to their core rubbles of language, scraps of nearby objects and fragments of the surrounding landscape. These vertical hybrids blend together scenery and people in order to assemble a lyrical collage that resonates towards an intimate order established by the artist. Through contact and touch which have a transformative quality in Muzquiz’s sculptural practice, these objects enter the orbits where the artist normally transits: her studio, domestic space, the city of Los Angeles and beyond, but also taking a detour to the subjective realm in order to do some inward sightseeing.
A torrent of dramatic references comes to mind: facial expressions fluctuating between the extremes of the human psyche, like the masks used in ancient Greek tragedies or in Japanese Noh dramas, objects as contained emotions; floral patterns and animal prints as clothes that have been petrified into colorful stone; flower vases replicating themselves and growing as corals into fractal continuity. Arranging the latitudes of thought within towers of stacked meaning, slowly step on the gas and everything drifts away into the horizon.
Milena Muzquiz (b. 1972, Tijuana, Mexico) trained at the California College of Fine Arts, San Francisco and then completed an MFA at the Art Centre College of Design, Pasedena, tutored by legendary conceptual artist Mike Kelley.
She has presented solo exhibitions at: David Gill Gallery, London (2019); Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, lead by the Getty Foundation (2017); Travesía Cuatro, Madrid, Spain (2019, 2017, 2014); Travesía Cuatro, Guadalajara, Mexico (2014); Pantaleone Gallery, Palermo, Italy (2010); Interior Projects, Los Angeles (2008); and Deitch Projects, New York, USA (2000).
She has also exhibited in institutions including: Bohossian Foundation, Villa Empain, Brussels (2017); La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain (2016); Dickinson Gallery, NY, USA (2016); Peter Kilchmann (2015); 6th Liverpool Biennial (2010); 28th São Paulo Biennale (2008); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2007); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2007); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006).
Between 1995 and 2008 she was part of the musical duo Los Súper Elegantes, which she founded with Martiniano López Crozet. Combining installation, video-art and music, the band performed in museums, galleries and art fairs as well as music festivals accross Latin America and the United States.
The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.
Jorge Méndez Blake
Jorge Méndez Blake explores the possible intersections between literature, visual arts and architecture, fusing different historic and geographical elements, provoking new readings on the role of language in our culture.
The artist employs analysis and synthesis as tools to transform the narrative and the poetic into visual compositions, attempting to shed a light on the material aspects that are implied in the act of writing. Similarly, Méndez Blake has devoted a significant part of his work to studying libraries as relational systems in which historical and cultural dimensions of a given context converge.
The work of Méndez Blake (b.1974, Guadalajara, Mexico) has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Casa de México en España; Kunsthalle Mulhouse, France; MARFA Contemporary; MCA Denver, Museum of La- tin-American Art, LA, US; Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Villa Croce, Geneva, Italy, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, MX, Museo Tamayo, MX; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, MX and Museo de Arte Moderno, MX.
He has also exhibited at the XIII Biennale of La Habana, Cuba; the Rashid Karami International Fair, Tripoli, Lebanon; NGV Triennale, Melbourne, Australia, 2017; Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, Musée Mac/Val in Paris; the Bass Museum, Miami; the Aspen Art Museum; Hessel Museum of Art in NY; the MCA Santa Barbara; Fundación PROA in Buenos Aires; Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander; La Casa Encendida, Madrid; Stedelijk Museum and Frankendael Foundation in Amsterdam, Netherlands; the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the ASU Museum of Art, Phoenix; BOZAR, Brussels; Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw and Fundación Jumex, Mexico City, among others.